The Humanities for the Public Good Initiative brings together students, artists, scholars, cultural practitioners, and people interested in using humanistic knowledge to forward publicly engaged scholarship, across four days Tuesday, April 6th through Friday, April 9th, 2021.

All events were free, open to the public and virtual.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, April 6

  • 12pm EST: What Should Public Art Do? A panel featuring Dr. Joseph Jordan, Dr. JJ Bauer and Susan Brown, moderated by Elizabeth Manekin

    Joseph Jordan is Director (since 2001) of the Sonja H. Stone Center for Black Culture and History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Adjunct Associate Professor, African/African American and Diaspora Studies. His work focuses on social justice movements in the diaspora, and the cultural politics of race, identity and artistic production in the diaspora, explored through representations in visual and other creative arts.

    JJ Bauer received her training at Southern Methodist University, University College-London, Penn State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her interests include: almost all culture from 1895-1919 in America and Europe, but especially design, architecture, and film; gender; theater; and digital humanities. She continues to work on the Artists’ Studio Archives Project ( She is an advisor for students pursuing a dual degree Masters in Art History-Masters in Library Science/Information Science.

    Susan Brown took her first library job to earn beer money while in college, never thinking it would turn into a career. After several years in academic and government libraries, she found her home at a public library. In 2013, she returned to the “Southern Part of Heaven” to become the Director of the Chapel Hill Public Library. Before that, she was the Marketing Director at Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, KS, where she spearheaded the Banned Books Trading Card Project, which won a John Cotton Dana Award from the American Library Association. Susan holds a B.A. from Virginia Tech and an M.L.S. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She also serves as Executive Director of the Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Arts & Culture.

    Elizabeth Manekin is the Head of University Programs and Academic Projects at UNC’s Ackland Art Museum. In this role, she oversees curricular and co-curricular programs, curates the Museum’s Ackland Upstairs, and collaborates with faculty and students across the University to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning with objects. Prior to her arrival at UNC, she was the Assistant Curator of Education at the Yale University Art Gallery and held appointments at Yale’s Schools of Art and Drama. Elizabeth has worked in the education departments of the Harvard Art Museums and the Addison Gallery of American Art. A Fulbright-Hays scholar, she holds an M.A in Public Humanities from Brown University and a B.A in History and Political Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

  • 6pm EST: Screening of The Whistle, followed by a conversation with Director StormMiguel Florez and documentary subject Charlene Padilla Johnson, moderated by Dr. Annette Rodriguez

About the film: The Whistle tells the story of a secret code created by and shared among young lesbians in 1970s & 80s Albuquerque as a means of self-identification and finding community.

Watch the official trailer. / English and Spanish subtitles are available. 

StormMiguel Florez is a trans, queer Xicane filmmaker, whose work includes award-winning documentaries, The Whistle (Producer/Director) and MAJOR! (Editor/Co-Producer 2015). StormMiguel is also an event and media producer, actor, and a life-long musician. He was a 2020 San Francisco Pride virtual Community Grand Marshal and a recipient of NALAC (National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures), The San Francisco Arts Commission, and Horizons Foundation grants. He’s originally from Albuquerque, NM, which he very much considers to be his homeland, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 24 years. He lives with his partner and their 3.5 chihuahuas.

Dr. Annette Rodriguez received her PhD in American Studies at Brown University in 2016. She has acted as an instructor at Brown University, the University of New Mexico, Northern New Mexico College, and Santa Fe Community College. She concentrates her work on perennial racist violences in the United States as communicating events that construct and reinforce ideologies and hierarchies of race, gender, citizenship, and national belonging.

Wednesday, April 7

  • 2pm EST: Feedback Now: A Case Study for Engaging Artists and Publics in Scholarly Communities

    About Feedback: In fall 2020, Carolina Performing Arts began hosting Feedback: The Institute for Performance, a series of virtual arts courses created by and for Triangle-area community. Inspired by CPA/Mellon Foundation Creative Futures artist Okwui Okpokwasili, who has said that her work aims “to generate a kind of radical intimacy…an empathy, an empathetic stream, an empathic feedback loop,” these public-serving courses underscore the necessity of reciprocal dialogue and space for the resonance of ideas. Led by renowned CPA artist collaborators and guests, participants in Feedback courses will explore concepts related to feedback and its importance to performance, no matter the form. This panel will use Feedback: The Institute for Performance as a case study to explore how performing arts institutions can bring together multiple stakeholders in conversation, foster cross-disciplinary collaboration between artists and scholars, and use the concept of “invitation” as a means of engaging with the urgent issues of our times.

  • 6pm EST: Ella Baker’s Catalytic Leadership: A Primer on Community Engagement and Communication for Social Justice – A book talk with Dr. Patricia Parker, hosted by Shawanna Sykes

    About the Book: For five decades, Ella Baker (1903–1986) worked behind the scenes with people in vulnerable communities to catalyze social justice leadership. Her steadfast belief in the power of ordinary people to create change continues to inspire social justice activists around the world. This book describes a case study that translates Ella Baker’s community engagement philosophy into a catalytic leadership praxis, which others can adapt for their work.

    Dr. Patricia Parker is Chair of the Department of Communication, where she is also a professor of critical organizational communication studies and Director of the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Research. Professor Parker’s research, teaching, and engaged scholarship focus on social justice leadership and decolonizing organizational communication processes. She is co-editor (with Larry Frey) of the University of California Press book series, “Communication and Social Justice Activism.”  Her books, other published scholarship, administrative work and social entrepreneurial activities, inform a sustained focus to intervene in problems at the intersections of power, identity, agency, and organizing.

    Shawanna (Shae) Sykes is a Licensed Career & Technical Educator. She graduated from East Chapel Hill High School and attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. While at A&T she studied and earned her degree in Family & Consumer Science Education grades (6-12). She’s been a CTE teacher for over 7 years. In her free time, she enjoys servicing hair clients, participating in community service events and spending time with family and friends. Shae is an Ella Baker Women’s Center board member and one of the original participants in the program as a teen.

Thursday, April 8

  • 11:30AM: Keynote Conversation: Anne Helen Petersen + Priya Parker

    A former senior culture writer for BuzzFeed, Anne Helen Petersen now writes her newsletter, Culture Study, as a full-time venture on Substack. Petersen received her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, where she focused on the history of celebrity gossip. Her previous books, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud and Scandals of Classic Hollywood, were featured in NPR, Elle, and the Atlantic. Her most recent book, Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, looks how we arrived at this point of burnout and examine the phenomenon through a variety of lenses—including how burnout affects the way we work, parent, and socialize. Her upcoming project co-written with Charlie Warzel is Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working from Home, a future-looking, game-changing book about the radical transformational potential of working from home. It is expected in December 2021. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

    Priya Parker is helping us take a deeper look at how anyone can create collective meaning in modern life, one gathering at a time. She is a facilitator, strategic advisor, acclaimed author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters and the host of the New York Times podcast, Together Apart. Parker has spent 15 years helping leaders and communities have complicated conversations about community and identity and vision at moments of transition. Trained in the field of conflict resolution, Parker has worked on race relations on American college campuses and on peace processes in the Arab world, southern Africa, and India. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, Anand Giridharadas, and their two children.

  • 1pm EST: Howdy, Partner: Collaborating and Connecting Beyond Campus – A panel on outreach featuring Qua Lynch Adkins (American Indian Center), Heidi Kim (Asian American Center), Andreina Malki (Grad Student, Geography), and Erin Stephens (The Beautiful Project), moderated by Dr. Malinda Lowery

    Qua Lynch Adkins, MPH, is the Native Student Engagement Coordinator at the UNC American Indian Center, where she plans and implements programs (i.e. Carolina Horizons, New Native Student Orientation, the Native Pathways to Professional Development Series, etc.), cultivates partnerships, and coordinates events that foster professional development of American Indian high school and undergraduate students. Qua is a citizen of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe and has strong connections to each of the Tribal Nations in North Carolina and many beyond the state, due to her lifelong community service.

    Heidi Kim is an associate professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. Her research ranges through nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature and Asian American studies. Prof. Kim received her undergraduate degree in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in English from Northwestern University, with a brief management consulting stint in between. (“It’s a long story,” she says.) She has been a Tar Heel since 2010. In her spare time, Prof. Kim is also chair of the Board of North Carolina Asian Americans Together, a 501(c)3 organization, and has served on the Town of Chapel Hill’s Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board.

    Andreina Malki immigrated to the United States from the rural town of Paysandú, Uruguay in 2001 when she was thirteen years old. She attended Furman University, where she studied psychology and Chinese, and then to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Global Studies in 2016. Andreina is currently a PhD student in the Geography department where her work focuses on legal geography, territory, sovereignty, corporate power, and Latin Americas. She has done extensive work with immigrant communities through Student Action with Farmworkers and Siembra NC. 

    Erin M. Stephens is a Black feminist sociologist and educator who engages an intersectional analysis in her work and in her research. She brings her experience in program development, gender justice, youth development, research and assessment to her role as the Program Director for The Beautiful Project, an arts-based collective in North Carolina that uses photography, writing, and care to advance the wellness and representational justice of Black women and girls. She has 17 years of experience advocating for social and institutional change to better meet the needs of marginalized populations, particularly women and youth of color. 

    Dr. Malinda Lowery is Director of the Center for the Study of the American South and Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she also earned her PhD in History. Her research includes Indigenous history, with a special focus on the Native South and her own community, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She is also a documentary film producer and oral historian. She lives in Durham, NC.

Friday, April 9

  • 12pm EST: Match/Make – A Showcase of Artist/Scholar Collaborations featuring artists Kamara Thomas, Jessica Stark and Iris Gottlieb and grad student scholars Deanna Corrin (Geography), Jacob Griffin (Anthropology) and Elias Gross (Music)

    About the Artists: Kamara Thomas is a singer, songspeller, mythology fanatic, and multidisciplinary storyteller based in Durham, NC. Jessica Q. Stark is a mixed-race poet and scholar that lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Iris Gottlieb is an illustrator and author best known for using art to demystify complexities of history, science, sociology, and her own experience.

Our Theme: “What Now?”

We chose the theme “What Now?” to reckon with this historic moment. In a time when there is division political and physical, grief that is uniquely personal and broadly cultural, how do move ahead as people endeavoring to engage the public? Scholars and artists on campus and off have had to innovate their organizing tools and change their expectations. This symposium is a moment to think through all we’ve learned and how it will shape the work to come. 

We’re inviting engaged scholars, humanists, artists, and cultural workers to come together to talk about what happens now. How do we meet the public in new ways? And how to we keep our critical conversations and projects accessible and democratic? We’ll hear from a range of voices— experienced scholars confident in their paths and works in progress finding their footing. We’ll also celebrate the work happening with feature panels and artistic experiences. Join us!